Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Jem and the Holograms Foster Care and Adoption Movie Review
When shy teenager Jerrica Benton is feeling worried about the prospect of losing the home that she’s lived in for years she puts her feelings into a song. She has no idea that her sister Kimber has uploaded a video of Jerrica singing the song to the internet, and she is surprised when the very next day she receives an offer from Erica Raymond, a powerful entertainment executive who wants Jerrica to become her new star. While this might let Jerrica help save her home, Erica wants Jerrica to leave behind her family. Will Jerrica give up her sisters to save their home?
The Foster Care and Adoption Connection
(Spoilers ahead the rest of the way)
Jerrica and her sister Kimber came to live with their Aunt Bailey several years ago after their father died. There, they joined with Bailey and her two long-time foster daughters Aja and Shana. Together, the five function as a family and as good friends. Jerrica obviously considers all three girls to be her sisters, and they demonstrate great loyalty to each other.
Jerrica is working at solving a puzzle that her father left to her; she believes that he intends this to be a message or a gift to her, and all of her sisters work together to help her solve it.
All four girls have been through some form of loss prior to coming to Aunt Bailey’s home, and the stability of their home is threatened due to financial pressures. Later, it seems that the only way to save their home will be to lose their close relationship with Jerrica. In fact, to save the family home,
Jerrica must leave home and take on a new name and identity.
Jerrica speaks to identity issues at the beginning of the film, “Everyone has a secret identity, and versions of ourself that we share. With all the identities we have access to, one question I haven’t been able to answer is, which one is the real me?”
Jerrica and her sisters are very loyal to each other, and they are loved by Aunt Bailey.
This is a positive representative of a loving, functional foster family.
Jerrica finds success by acknowledging that there are others who feel the way she feels – alone and scared.
Aunt Bailey resists what must have been a strong temptation to put pressure on Jerrica to use her success to help Bailey. Jerrica wants to help and even feels responsibility to do so, but Bailey never pushes her to feel this way.
Jerrica finds direction for her life when she learns about her dad. The clues he has left her lead her on a scavenger hunt of sorts. Jerrica goes on a sort of journey of discovering her history, which kind of reminds me of the excellent documentary Closure. Jerrica is able to remember her father by living out the lessons he wanted her to learn, and by visiting places that were important to him.
Jerrica and her sisters grieve their loss by visiting Jerrica’s lost childhood home, and then say, “This is just a house. A home is where you’re surrounded by people you love and who love you regardless (of anything).”
When it seems that Jerrica will choose to separate from her sisters in order to save the home, one of her sisters tells her, “I guess I was wrong – sisters can break up.” That one line and the concept behind it could be jarring for kids who’ve lost family connections to foster care or adoption, as well as for those who have not securely attached to their current family. It’s interesting here, too, that Jerrica’s family is broken up, more or less, by Jerrica’s new name and identity. Even in the face of this relational breach, though, Jerrica’s sisters are loyal to her and pursue her to show that they intend to stick together. They even express their understanding that Jerrica is trying to do right by them.
People who have been – or who are in – foster care might find it retraumatizing to watch a story about the stability of a foster home being threatened.
Jerrica seems to feel responsibility to save the family home, which is a lot to put on a teenager. Although Aunt Bailey tries to assure Jerrica that it isn’t her responsibility, it ultimately is. Shana also feels some responsibility for the home’s finances, and tries to use her fashion designing skills to lessen the family’s hardship. It’s good to see kids and teens functioning as part of the family, but many kids in foster care have had to function with adult responsibilities and it’s important for them to know that it’s OK to just be a kid.
Jerrica enters a romantic relationship with a young man who had been assigned to be her chaperone. This switch in roles could be confusing for some kids. It can be dangerous to confuse the roles of authority figure and romantic interest.
There’s a touching scene where Jerrica sees a video of her father talking to her and holding her. Although it might be triggering for some kids to watch who’ve lost a parent, it does provide healing for Jerrica. I suspect that kids who’ve lost a parent to death might find it healing while kids who’ve lost a parent through the termination of parental rights might find it painful.
Jerrica and her friends do run from the police on one occasion; they’ve been trespassing and didn’t realize that they had tripped a silent alarm.
This one reminds me of Earth to Echo quite a bit – there are foster kids who are in danger of losing their home, who are simultaneous learning lessons from a small white robot-like character. Jem and the Holograms does show a very positive foster family that sticks together in the face of a crisis, although I do wonder if the particular crisis (potentially losing the foster home or the foster family relationships) might actually be retraumatizing for some kids. There is probably a pretty narrow window for this film – probably girls between the ages of 10 and 13. Kids much younger might be more likely to be retraumatized by the theme of home instability, and kids much older will probably be too old for the film. It doesn’t seem likely to interest most boys. For the kids that will appreciate it, though, it’s a rare, positive portrayal of a full, single-parent foster family.
Questions for Discussion
Is she really Jerrica, really Jem, or both?
What makes a family, a family?
Do you have a secret identity? Who gets to know the real you?
Do you have a secret identity? Who gets to know the real you?